Ginger Abuse: Tackling Redhead Harassment

Customers react as redhead actor faces taunting in WWYD scenario.

February 16, 2011, 2:54 PM

Feb. 21, 2011 — -- Throughout the years, "What Would You Do?" has explored a multitude of situations involving intolerance and bigotry, including obesity, age, and gender issues. But have you ever heard of "ginger abuse?"

Ginger abuse is a form of bullying directed at people with red hair. It may be a relatively unknown type of harassment to many, but according to one young "What Would You Do?" viewer, it's an obstacle he faces on a daily basis.

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Gilsdorf of Rocklin, Calif., is one of three redheaded brothers. He wrote to "What Would You Do?" and told us he is constantly picked on at school because of his vibrant hair color.

"I don't feel good when they say that kinda stuff to me. I hate it," Gilsdorf said.

In his "How Would You Do It?" contest entry letter, Gilsdorf asked us to set up a scenario based on his situation. He wrote, "I am asking you guys if you could do a bit for me so I know that there are people out there who want to help." While Gilsdorf could not be considered an official contest entrant as he was not 21 years old, his letter struck a chord.

The "What Would You Do?" team took Gisdorf's plea to heart and decided to stage a situation involving ginger abuse. After multiple locations fell through and problems with the tumultuous winter weather, we finally set up our hidden cameras at Burger DeLuxe in Wayne, N.J.

We hired Jeremy, an actor, to play the role of our redheaded high school student. While he sat at a table in the restaurant with a friend, a group of three actors playing the roles of bullies walked in and sat down next to him. Immediately, they took notice of the redhead and started taunting him with names like "Ginger" and "Carrot Top."

Bullied Because of Hair Color

As the name-calling continued, several diners took notice while customer Loren Kleinman called the waitress over to complain about the bullies. Moments later, Kleinman got out of her seat, walked over to the bullies and told them, "You better knock it off or we're going to call the police."

As has proven to be the case in past "What Would You Do?" scenarios, the reaction of one person led the way for others to voice their disgust with our bullies. "You know what? You're acting like an ass," was the reprimand from one nearby patron. "You're supposed to be adults. What's wrong with you?"

One of the diners who defended our redheaded actor was a redhead himself. Rich Loboda told ABC News' John Quinones that he too was hassled as a child for having what was considered to be bright red hair.

"I had to fight my way out of stuff," Loboda said.

Ginger abuse has become comedic fodder for the popular cartoon, "South Park." The show regularly features its characters harassing redheads, and several years ago started to run an episode which featured a "Kick a Ginger Day." Now each year, on Nov. 20, dozens of redheads have reported being kicked by classmates and strangers who have a problem with their hair color.

We wanted to see how people would react if they witnessed one of our bullies actually kick our redheaded actor. Their reactions surprised us.

Back in California, we showed Jeremy a clip of how our scenario played out. He said our show accurately portrayed the verbal abuse he deals with daily, and thought our viewers would really get a sense of what "ginger abuse" is. Find out what more he had to say about bullies and his message for our "What Would You Do?" viewers on "What Would You Do?" this Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

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